By Dr. Thomas LaGrelius

Contributing writer

It was the summer before my junior year in high school. I was 16. It was a cloudy, drizzly day in Seattle, as usual. I was playing Ping-Pong in the basement with friends. Dad was at work. Mom was shopping. The phone rang.

It was Mom from a phone booth. She was dizzy and had pulled over at a motel by the highway. She couldn’t drive. She sounded confused and could not remember Dad’s work number, but did remember our home number. She asked me to call Dad and have him pick her up. I did. Then I grabbed an extra set of car keys and ran for the bus that went by where she was stranded.

Dr. Thomas W. LaGrelius

I got there just as Dad was driving off with her to our family doctor. I drove her car home and waited. Scared.

In a few days we learned Mom had Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia (AML).

AML is a disease we now can sometimes cure, but in 1959 it was fatal.  Mom knew for sure she was dying, at age 46. While she was ill I was her chauffeur to doctors and hospitals. I met and talked to them all, particularly Dr. Stevens, her young and talented Swedish Hospital oncologist.

A gentle, caring man, Stevens told her he could induce a remission and keep her alive for six months. He was wrong. Mom died in six weeks. When she died, she was a mass of hemorrhagic bruises from head to toe, having stopped making the platelets that control bleeding. It was pretty horrible, but Mom made the most of those six weeks.

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